The laziest thing you can say about multi-cam sitcoms, lazier than any of winking double entendres or the Maersk shipping containers of canned laughter that define them, is that they're old-fashioned. Sure, the filming style and rhythms are familiar. Until about 10 years ago, nearly all network sitcoms were multi-cam, the industry term for a show filmed on a static set like a play, often with a live audience, with three cameras circling the action. And ever since the success of The Office and Modern Family, cool-hunting comedy writers — not to mention cool-chasing TV critics — have glommed on to the faster-paced single-cam (as in: shot like a movie) style as a sign of better taste, not to mention better jokes.
But watching any of CBS's money-printing multi-cams, from the noxious 2 Broke Girls to the flatulent The Millers, is not akin to stepping back in time. My memory could be faulty, but I don't recall Lucille Ball ever praising a gynecologist for having hands "like an Asian raccoon." Where the relatively risqué Seinfeld built an entire episode around a part of the female body that was never said aloud, Mom ended a recent episode with an 8-year-old bellowing "clitoris" as if it were Pee-wee's secret word. The secret to megaproducer Chuck Lorre's titanic success isn't that his Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory are throwbacks. It's that they spike the classic sitcom format with ample doses of sex, smarm, and scatology. The comforting, predictable blanket of studio laughter — or gasps, or Charmin-soft awwwws — allows Lorre's shows to get away with things his supposedly cutting-edge competition never could. No one seems to find any of it objectionable because it doesn't particularly feel objectionable. It's Walter Cronkite telling "The Aristocrats." It's the sepia-toned version of Man Getting Hit By Football.
Only God Forgives, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
How nice it would be to report that the second teaming of Refn and Ryan Gosling has produced something as ecstatic and electrically nasty as their first. But the nastiness this time isn't nice. It's just ... nasty. This isn't Drive. It's a rib cage rolling on human heads for tires. Gosling is a dude who operates a muay thai gym in Bangkok and dreams of having his hands sliced off. He's not wrong to be scared. Vithaya Pansringarm plays an ex-cop who, starting with Gosling's rapist-murderer brother, hacks his way through anyone who exploits or kills anyone's daughters — or anyone related to Gosling.
Refn usually works on the border between classicism and formal chaos. His shotmaking and choreography are pristine, even when the images are splattered with blood. The film editing is precise. The sound design imaginative. The art direction museum-quality. This is more of the same — the Crayola color would be "viscera" — but all that craftsmanship is put to obvious, indulgent ends. It doesn't take long to deduce that the vengeful slicing and hacking of limbs and the like are Refn living out some kind of castration nightmare. (At 89 minutes, the movie lasts as long as a bad nap.) To put too fine a point upon that dread, along comes Kristin Scott Thomas as Gosling's slum queen with a dirty mouth and filthier intentions. Her participation is as much a stunt as any of the sword work. (The most loving, if grotesque, image happens not to be phallic but vaginal.)
It’s Friday night, and we’re in a mansion high atop a mountain somewhere in nearby Deer Valley, the kind of place that doesn’t have an address. A cab driver takes me over. He reminisces about the old days at Sundance. “I’ve had some crazy times, man.” I ask him what he means. “Oh, you know: big parties, hot tubs, cougars.” He’s a local, remembers sending the yellow cabs that drive up from Salt Lake City during Sundance on wild goose chases around town. But GPS put an end to that, he says, sadly.
Which I’m grateful for tonight, actually: It’s all we can do to find the hotel at the base of the mountain, where in the lobby I give my name to a waiting factotum, who dispatches another factotum, who brings another car around. I get in and we drive for a while, heading up the hill. There is no address because this road is private: We pass through one gate manned by a security guard, and then another, pairs of leaping deer glinting off the ironwork. Up the mountain we go, making lefts and rights at seeming random, speeding up in the dark.
Worst Actress is traditionally the most difficult Razzie category to predict, because the performances are the most widely varied. Will nominations go to Oscar nominees slumming it (as when Diane Keaton was nominated for 2007’s Because I Said So)? Or will it go to the forgettable female “lead” in an action movie (as in Megan Fox’s nominations the past two years, for Jonah Hex and Transformers 2)? Or will a single nomination go to a whole group of ladies (the casts of Sex and the City 2, The Women, and Bratz: The Movie) in a manner that doesn’t at all suggest that the Razzies find all women and movies about women interchangeable and icky?